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borman
2014-Dec-16, 07:53 PM
From Science Espress today:

Mars methane detection and variability at Gale crater

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2014/12/15/science.1261713.abstract

Can not tell if it is biotic or not.

Support comes from isotope ratios.

Recently, a Martian Meteorite has shown a ratio that supports a preference for a biomarker.

Traces of possible Martian biological activity inside a meteorite

http://actu.epfl.ch/news/traces-of-possible-martian-biological-activity-ins/

Colin Robinson
2014-Dec-16, 10:33 PM
From Science Espress today:

Mars methane detection and variability at Gale crater

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2014/12/15/science.1261713.abstract

Can not tell if it is biotic or not.

Support comes from isotope ratios.

Recently, a Martian Meteorite has shown a ratio that supports a preference for a biomarker.

Traces of possible Martian biological activity inside a meteorite

http://actu.epfl.ch/news/traces-of-possible-martian-biological-activity-ins/

Thank you for sharing these two items of news. Especially interesting is the final sentence in the abstract about methane detection at Gale crater:

"Additionally, in four sequential measurements spanning a 60-sol period, we observed elevated levels of methane of 7.2 ± 2.1 (95% CI) ppbv implying that Mars is episodically producing methane from an additional unknown source."

selvaarchi
2014-Dec-17, 12:23 AM
NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory’s drill.

http://indianspacestation.com/96-news/international-news/754-nasa-rover-finds-active-ancient-organic-chemistry-on-mars


"This temporary increase in methane -- sharply up and then back down -- tells us there must be some relatively localized source," said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Curiosity rover science team. "There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock."

Researchers used Curiosity’s onboard Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory a dozen times in a 20-month period to sniff methane in the atmosphere. During two of those months, in late 2013 and early 2014, four measurements averaged seven parts per billion. Before and after that, readings averaged only one-tenth that level.

Curiosity also detected different Martian organic chemicals in powder drilled from a rock dubbed Cumberland, the first definitive detection of organics in surface materials of Mars. These Martian organics could either have formed on Mars or been delivered to Mars by meteorites.

Organic molecules, which contain carbon and usually hydrogen, are chemical building blocks of life, although they can exist without the presence of life. Curiosity's findings from analyzing samples of atmosphere and rock powder do not reveal whether Mars has ever harbored living microbes, but the findings do shed light on a chemically active modern Mars and on favorable conditions for life on ancient Mars.

Squink
2014-Dec-17, 04:30 AM
Mars methane detection and variability at Gale crater (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2014/12/15/science.1261713.abstract?keytype=ref&siteid=sci&ijkey=wh80Qt3dcQZKw)
at Gale Crater, we report detection of background levels of atmospheric methane of mean value 0.69 ± 0.25 ppbv at the 95% confidence interval (CI).
...
Additionally, in four sequential measurements spanning a 60-sol period, we observed elevated levels of methane of 7.2 ± 2.1 (95% CI) ppbv implying that Mars is episodically producing methane from an additional unknown source.

selvaarchi
2014-Dec-17, 01:59 PM
View this 60 seconds video from The Telegraph on the history of the Curiosity Rover

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/space/11297481/Watch-Mars-Curiosity-Rover-in-60-seconds.html


A team of Nasa scientists say that evidence of life on Mars may have been detected by the American space agency's Curiosity Rover.

An instrument on the six-wheeled robot identified mysterious spikes of methane that cannot easily be explained by geology or organic material transported to the planet by comets or asteroids.

Curiosity, one of Nasa's two Mars Exploration Rovers, landed in the Gale Crater, in August 2012 and has now been exploring the red planet's environment for over two years.

It touched down after its 350,000,000 mile journey at a site known as Bradbury Landing.


Another 60 second video on why methane is important in our quest for life.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/space/11297421/Watch-Why-methane-can-mean-life-on-Mars.html




Life is the chief producer of methane on Earth, but there are many non-biological processes that can also generate the gas.

The low background level of methane detected by Curiosity can be explained by the Sun's rays degrading organic material possibly deposited by meteors, said the Nasa scientists.

But the spikes of methane required an additional source, which was unlikely to be a recent impact by comet or asteroid. Such an object would have had to measure several metres across and would have left a large crater, no sign of which was visible.

selvaarchi
2014-Dec-17, 11:36 PM
This report from "marsdaily" says the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite on NASA's Curiosity rover has made the first definitive detection of organic molecules at Mars. That is the building blocks of life. So taken with the detection of methane might, just might indicate there is life on Mars. If that is true, then we can start rewriting a lot of scripts of the origin of life and the implications of life else where in the universe. Wow it is exciting times to be living in.

http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/Goddard_instrument_makes_first_detection_of_organi c_matter_on_Mars_999.html


The organic molecules found by the team were in a drilled sample of the Sheepbed mudstone in Gale crater, the landing site for the Curiosity rover. Scientists think the crater was once the site of a lake billions of years ago, and rocks like mudstone formed from sediment in the lake. Moreover, this mudstone was found to contain 20 percent smectite clays. On Earth, such clays are known to provide high surface area and optimal interlayer sites for the concentration and preservation of organic compounds when rapidly deposited under reducing chemical conditions.

While the team can't conclude that there was life at Gale crater, the discovery shows that the ancient environment offered a supply of reduced organic molecules for use as building blocks for life and an energy source for life. Curiosity's earlier analysis of this same mudstone revealed that the environment offered water and chemical elements essential for life and a different chemical energy source.

"We think life began on Earth around 3.8 billion years ago, and our result shows that places on Mars had the same conditions at that time - liquid water, a warm environment, and organic matter," said Caroline Freissinet of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "So if life emerged on Earth in these conditions, why not on Mars as well?" Freissinet is lead author of a paper on this research submitted to the Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets.

Polyrealastic Observer
2014-Dec-18, 04:56 AM
It certainly seems like the evidence is building. I'm sure folks are being super cautious, as they should be. We'll have to keep an eye on this.

selvaarchi
2014-Dec-18, 09:22 AM
An article be Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal and a Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge, titled "Life on Mars would change everything we know".

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/space/11299552/Astronomer-Royal-Life-on-Mars-would-change-everything-we-know.html


If life had originated twice, independently, within our solar system, we’d have to conclude that it can’t be a rare fluke – and that the wider cosmos must teem with life, on zillions of planets orbiting other stars. But until we find life on Mars (or maybe on the moons of Jupiter or Saturn, or on a comet) it remains possible that life is very rare and special to our Earth.

That is why even the most tentative claims for life on Mars attract huge interest. This week there has been one such claim, reported by The Telegraph yesterday, that underground methane is “burping” through the Martian surface – possibly generated by organic stuff that was once alive. Let’s hope that future experiments can clarify this. It will certainly add interest to the European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission, which is planned for 2016, and will be able to dig deep below the surface of the Red Planet.

Nicolas
2014-Dec-18, 01:17 PM
It will certainly add interest to the European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission, which is planned for 2016, and will be able to dig deep below the surface of the Red Planet.

Hopefully in a different fashion than many previous Mars mission who ended up digging deep below the surface of Mars... ;)

iquestor
2014-Dec-18, 01:19 PM
Hopefully in a different fashion than many previous Mars mission who ended up digging deep below the surface of Mars... ;)

LOL .. Maybe if Curiosity doesn't find conclusive proof soon, ExoMars may trump her in 2017...

selvaarchi
2014-Dec-18, 01:26 PM
Hopefully in a different fashion than many previous Mars mission who ended up digging deep below the surface of Mars... ;)

Before they do that, hopefully there would by some mechanism to determine if there are living organisms living underneath. It would be a shame if those organisms that have survived Mars harsh environment all this time, protected by layer of regolith and rocks above them, are then killed off by mans curiosity.

Nicolas
2014-Dec-18, 01:38 PM
The method to determine if there are living organisms underneath basically is drilling to get a sample. And then putting it in an oven.

selvaarchi
2014-Dec-18, 01:55 PM
The method to determine if there are living organisms underneath basically is drilling to get a sample. And then putting it in an oven.

It would be a shame then if those were the only living species left on Mars and we killed it off.:boohoo:

iquestor
2014-Dec-18, 06:48 PM
Perhaps someone with the appropriate background can answer this: based on the Methane Spikes, is it possible to characterize the amount or scope of the agents generating the methane if there were biologics, ie how much biomass would be required to generate the cyclic methane bursts Curiosity is seeing? as opposed to say water//olivine reactions, etc...

Swift
2014-Dec-18, 08:40 PM
I've merged the thread from Space Exploration and the thread from Life in Space on this topic, and put the new thread in Life in Space.

That keeps all the conversation in one spot.

borman
2014-Dec-19, 03:17 AM
At the press conference, one scientist said Curiosity would need at least 10 ppbv to get the isotope ratio of the methane. The spikes did not get that high. While it is not certain that the plume was near, its short presence suggests it and it would be north of the rover. Maybe HiRise can spot potential vent holes in Gale to visit after the main missions are concluded.

Glom
2014-Dec-19, 03:54 AM
What are these organics that aren't methane?

borman
2014-Dec-19, 11:59 AM
JPL has a Curiosity page that has useful information including reprints and a video of the press meeting.

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mission/science/researchpapers/

Colin Robinson
2014-Dec-19, 09:16 PM
What are these organics that aren't methane?

Seems no-one knows yet.

JPL report from a couple of days ago says they have detected organic compounds other than methane in a rock sample, but have not yet ascertained specifically what the compounds are. "Identifying which specific Martian organics are in the rock is complicated... the identities of the Martian organics in the rock remain uncertain."

NASA Rover Finds Active and Ancient Organic Chemistry on Mars (http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=4413)

Githyanki
2014-Dec-21, 11:47 PM
I am fairly certain there is life on Mars; but whether it is native-Martian life or of Earth-origin is another matter.

Swift
2014-Dec-21, 11:57 PM
Science News (https://www.sciencenews.org/article/rover-finds-methane-mars-air-organics-rocks) has a little more info


Curiosity detected several organic molecules, including what may be chlorobenzene, from rock at one study location. But the team can’t say whether the molecules are signs of life or the result of nonbiological activity.

Similar uncertainty applies to life’s role in the presence of methane. In 20 months of study, Curiosity generally recorded just trace amounts of methane in the Martian air. But during one 60-Martian-day episode, the rover sniffed out 10 times as much methane as background levels, finding about 7 parts per billion of the gas. (Earth’s atmosphere has about 1,800 ppb of methane.) That spike suggests that the Red Planet is home to periodic methane releases.

Researchers can’t yet pinpoint the source of Mars’ methane. On Earth, microbes make the majority of the methane, and it’s possible that microbes are generating the gas on Mars. Any methane produced by organisms billions of years ago could be buried deep in the planet and periodically disturbed and vented to the surface through cracks, said mission scientist Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan. Methane could also have a nonbiological source, perhaps generated by chemical reactions between water and minerals in Martian rocks or from reactions between the sun’s ultraviolet radiation and cosmic dust.

Glom
2014-Dec-22, 10:48 AM
Seems no-one knows yet.

JPL report from a couple of days ago says they have detected organic compounds other than methane in a rock sample, but have not yet ascertained specifically what the compounds are. "Identifying which specific Martian organics are in the rock is complicated... the identities of the Martian organics in the rock remain uncertain."

NASA Rover Finds Active and Ancient Organic Chemistry on Mars (http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=4413)
So it's basically that they've detected carbon bonds.

Ross 54
2014-Dec-22, 10:11 PM
Chlorobenzene, which may have been detected on Mars, is an organic compound. It is very similar to the familiar benzene ring, with 6 carbon atoms linked, and a hydrogen atom linked to each carbon. The only difference here is that one of the hydrogen atoms is replaced by a chlorine atom. It's still not certain if chlorobenzene was found on Mars, or was produced by the analysis procedure used by Curiosity. It is conceivable that such a compound could have been produced by life on Mars. At least one species of bacteria on Earth can use chlorobenzene as a source of energy.

kzb
2014-Dec-23, 01:03 PM
Chlorobenzene, which may have been detected on Mars, is an organic compound. It is very similar to the familiar benzene ring, with 6 carbon atoms linked, and a hydrogen atom linked to each carbon. The only difference here is that one of the hydrogen atoms is replaced by a chlorine atom. It's still not certain if chlorobenzene was found on Mars, or was produced by the analysis procedure used by Curiosity. It is conceivable that such a compound could have been produced by life on Mars. At least one species of bacteria on Earth can use chlorobenzene as a source of energy.

But I don't think chlorobenzene would be in the top twenty life-signs molecules.

Recall that dichloromethane was detected by Viking, and that was put down to traces of cleaning fluid remaining in the experiment apparatus. So it's interesting that organochlorines are implicated once again in the experiments. Chlorobenzene is used in manufacture of synthetic rubbers for example.

Ross 54
2014-Dec-24, 02:13 AM
Organochlorides apparently occur naturally on Earth, and have been found in living things and in various bio-molecules.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organochloride#natural_occurrence

Paul Wally
2014-Dec-26, 03:33 PM
Chlorobenzene, which may have been detected on Mars, is an organic compound. It is very similar to the familiar benzene ring, with 6 carbon atoms linked, and a hydrogen atom linked to each carbon. The only difference here is that one of the hydrogen atoms is replaced by a chlorine atom. It's still not certain if chlorobenzene was found on Mars, or was produced by the analysis procedure used by Curiosity. It is conceivable that such a compound could have been produced by life on Mars. At least one species of bacteria on Earth can use chlorobenzene as a source of energy.

Interestingly, they actually don't know what the particular compounds are, only that they're organic and may even be quite complex. The Chlorine bond is likely formed in a reaction with percholates during the heating process in the oven.

DaveC426913
2014-Dec-28, 05:01 PM
The Chlorine bond is likely formed in a reaction with percholates during the heating process in the oven.
Is that what happens when a perchlorate percolates? :D

Swift
2015-Jan-14, 01:49 AM
What are these organics that aren't methane?
The December 22, 2014 issue of Chemical & Engineering News had a news brief with a tiny bit more information. According to that, the molecules detected were chlorobenzene, dichloropropane, and dichloroethane, and dichlorobutane. The molecules are "likely the products of precursor organics and formed during heating of the perchlorate-rich Martian soil".

borman
2015-Jan-23, 07:19 PM
Published in the journal Science today
Abstract: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/347/6220/415.abstract

BigDon
2015-Jan-24, 06:42 PM
You know this means Gale Crater smells like low tide on a mudflat, right?

trinitree88
2015-Mar-10, 01:50 AM
You know this means Gale Crater smells like low tide on a mudflat, right?

Actually, methane is odorless. After a few people inadvertently blew up their homes, the gas company decided to replace some of the cleaned -out stink with an odorant....tertiary butylthiol. You can smell it @ parts per billion. pete

borman
2015-Mar-10, 05:59 PM
Frozen CO2 is less effective than Frozen H2O at preserving glycine
The radiation stability of glycine in solid CO2 - in situ laboratory measurements with applications to Mars


http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.02522

borman
2015-Mar-19, 12:54 AM
3 Hypotheses for (re)sourcing methane in Gale Crater from the 46th LPSC
Hypotheses for a Near-Surface Reservoir of Methane and Its Release on Mars
http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2015/pdf/2279.pdf

trinitree88
2015-Mar-23, 10:19 PM
3 Hypotheses for (re)sourcing methane in Gale Crater from the 46th LPSC
Hypotheses for a Near-Surface Reservoir of Methane and Its Release on Mars
http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2015/pdf/2279.pdf

Interesting borman. Now I want to add a dilute solution of glucose and some Ringer's solution to a Martian drilled soil sample @ room temperature.

borman
2015-Mar-26, 03:09 AM
Some other abstracts of interest from LPSC2015
WATER AND CHLORINE ABUNDANCE ALONG THE TRAVERSE OF CURIOSITY ACCORDING TO
DAN MEASUREMENTS
http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2015/pdf/1423.pdf

MARTIAN PERCHLORATE CHEMISTRY: PERCHLORATE FORMATION AND EFFECT ON ORGANICS
http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2015/pdf/2997.pdf
HALITE AS A METHANE SEQUESTRATION HOST: A POSSIBLE EXPLANATION FOR PERIODIC
METHANE RELEASE ON MARS, AND A SURFACE-ACCESSIBLE SOURCE OF ANCIENT MARTIAN
CARBON
http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2015/pdf/3017.pdf

INDIGENOUS CARBONACEOUS MATTER AND BORON ASSOCIATED WITH HALITE CRYSTALS IN NAKHLA
http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2015/pdf/2770.pdf

MARTIAN CHLOROBENZENE IDENTIFIED BY CURIOSITY IN YELLOWKNIFE BAY: EVIDENCE FOR THE PRESERVATION OF ORGANICS IN A MUDSTONE ON MARS
http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2015/pdf/1178.pdf
While this last abstract makes no explicit use of the term “fatty acid”, there may have been further discussion or Q&A after the presentation that is the source for this press article about this presentation:
NASA's Curiosity rover finds fatty acids on Mars
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22530143.200-nasas-curiosity-rover-finds-fatty-acids-on-mars.html

borman
2015-Apr-25, 08:19 PM
Can clumped isotope effects serve as biological tracers for Mars as well?

From Science:

Biogeochemical tales told by isotope clumps
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/348/6233/394.summary

Biological signatures in clumped isotopes of O2
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/348/6233/431.abstract

Nonequilibrium clumped isotope signals in microbial methane
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/348/6233/428.abstract

borman
2015-Jun-16, 03:32 PM
Methane found in Martian Meteorites
Press Release
Scientists find methane in Mars meteorites
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-06/yu-sfm061615.php

No information on isotope ratios as yet.

A.DIM
2015-Jun-17, 12:11 AM
A couple weeks ago there was this (http://news.uark.edu/articles/27669/earth-organisms-survive-under-low-pressure-martian-conditions), which seems relevant here.
New research at the University of Arkansas suggests that methanogens – among the simplest and oldest organisms on Earth – could survive on Mars.

A.DIM
2015-Jun-17, 12:16 AM
Ooops! I meant to include this as well (http://www.astrobio.net/topic/origins/extreme-life/hardy-bacteria-thrive-under-hot-desert-rocks/) which is slightly less relevant here:
Beneath the rocks scarring California’s Mojave Desert are colonies of cyanobacteria, tiny creatures thought to be some of the first on Earth to convert light from the Sun into energy in the process known as photosynthesis. By studying how these creatures adapt to life in the hot, dry desert, biologists hope to glean insight into how microbial life of some sort might fare on Mars.
A recent study published last year in the International Journal of Astrobiology examined how these organisms survived when different types of rock stood between them and the Sun. It found that the dominant type, Chroococcidiopsis, thrived beneath a variety of geologic types, from quartz to talc.

Selfsim
2015-Jun-17, 03:23 AM
... No information on isotope ratios as yet.??:

.. the meteorites contain gases in the same proportion and with the same isotopic composition as the martian atmosphere.